Madrid, July 20, 2021- When it comes to taking care of their health, cancer patients must follow a series of preventive measures, especially in summer, when schedules, food, and lifestyle are very different to the rest of the year. For that reason, at MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid we work hard every day so that patients maintain an optimal state of health during the summer months and vacations, taking care of their diet, hydration and with the sun.
Pedro Jose Robledo, head of the Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics Unit at MD Anderson Madrid, points out that “the ideal diet for a cancer patient should be varied, unrestricted, should represent all the food groups, be easy to prepare and adequate in terms of energy intake”.
These tips can be extended to the public in general, so the specialist recommends “eating plant-based foods such as cereals, vegetables and fruits (at least five portions a day) regularly, which is not only appetizing in summer, but is also a very important way of preventing health issues", he says. The consumption of red meat “should be moderate, no more than 125 grams once a week." In addition, he clarifies that "patients with gastrointestinal tumors do not tolerate this type of meat well, so it is better to consume chicken or fish".
The nutritionist also reminds us that it is important to control the amounts of food eaten at this time of year. “An excessive intake of calories is not always beneficial, even though the calories may come from healthy foods (some of which are high in calories). Being overweight or obese are not recommended in any case, but even less so in patients with breast, prostate or colon cancer”.
Furthermore, "patients receiving oral or intravenous chemotherapy treatment may have side effects affecting their intestinal transit, with periods of colitis or constipation and low tolerance to some foods", explains Dr. Robledo. "In these cases, good oral rehydration is important, but that does not always mean drinking water, as water tends to taste bad and is not tolerated very well," he explains. That is why he recommends "infusions (which can be cold), juices (which must be limited due to their sugar content) and, in more serious cases, fluids should be replaced directly with oral rehydration solutions".
Skin care and hygiene
Regarding the care that patients must maintain with respect to other typical situations at time of year, Arantxa Ruiz, supervisor of Radiotherapy and Oncology Hospitalization at MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid, warns about the risk of sunbathing. Patients who have had radiotherapy should not sunbathe without protection and those who have received chemotherapy should always be protected with a factor 50 sunscreen and should not be exposed directly to the sun. "Chemotherapy can cause photosensitivity. And a patient who is in treatment may suffer symptoms like dryness, redness, peeling, darkening and pigmentation of the skin. Furthermore, "with radiotherapy, we greatly increase the risk of sunburn in the area treated," she points out. For all the above, it is important to protect yourself from the sun.
Regarding hygiene, Ms. Ruiz recommends “washing the skin with a mild soap with a neutral pH. Take short showers and avoid long baths, using lukewarm or warm water, avoiding sudden changes in temperature”. She also advises using soothing, moisturizing creams "moisturizing creams or ointments that restore the skin’s natural hydrolipidic barrier, at least twice a day." Likewise, she reminds patients to pay special attention to moisturizing hands and feet, as they tend to become drier. Bathing in the pool or in the sea is not bad for you, "as long as the skin is not damaged by the treatments”. When drying our skin, it is better to do this "by gently patting with a cotton towel", as rubbing can damage the skin.
Caring for the scalp
During the summer, everyone should take special care of their head, especially cancer patients who have suffered hair loss. “With hair loss, the scalp loses its main protective barrier against the sun's rays, so it is advisable to always wear some kind of head covering. If you wear a wig, it is important you let the scalp rest for at least six hours a day and overnight. This is especially important in summer, as sweat can worsen scalp irritation”, she explains.
Finally, with the loss of eyebrows and eyelashes, it is very important to protect the eyes from the sun: "You should wear quality sunglasses whenever possible, even on cloudy days".
Other special care
Air conditioning, as well as cold drafts, may cause respiratory infections that complicate the administration of treatments and the patient's prognosis. "Sudden changes in temperature should be avoided," warns the specialist. On the other hand, due to cancer treatments, because of both the drugs and the emotional state of patients, sleep patterns may be affected and patients may not get enough rest and “we recommend avoiding strenuous activities. Patients should rest during the day. A siesta is a good way to regain strength”.